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There are various substances and activities that a person can be addicted to. All of the substances have in common that they cause an increase of certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in areas of the brain that are responsible for “reward” which is perceived by the individual as “high” (euphoria).
The following information gives a basic overview of common substances that people are addicted to and how we treat them. If you or a loved one have a problem with any of these substances then please call Synergy Recovery Services at 661-878-9100 or fill out an online form to schedule a consultation.
People suffering from substance abuse typically need minimal detoxification assistance and do not face the same withdrawal symptoms as those dealing with substance addiction. Learn more about the differences and how to get treatment for substance abuse at Synergy Lifestyle Center.
Alcohol interacts with numerous chemical systems in the brain and increases the effect of chemicals that decrease the brain activity. Alcohol dependence is characterized by daily or near daily heavy drinking and loss of control over the alcohol, which often leads to a downward spiral of social, legal, and/or health problems.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and sometimes deadly and may include nervousness, irritability, cold or clammy skin, “shakiness” or hand tremors, anxiety, mood swings, depression, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, hallucinations and seizures. Patients who built up a significant tolerance have to be “detoxed” in an acute care hospital (sometimes in the ICU) before they can start with their recovery process.
All opiates have in common that they attach to specific endorphine receptors in the brain and body of humans (and animals), which causes a sensation of well-being. Stimulation of these receptors in certain areas of the brain causes “euphoria” or the “high” that patients might experience when taking opiates.
Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, nausea & vomiting, diarrhea, yawning, wide pupils, elevated blood pressure and pulse, sweating, runny nose, chills, diffuse body and muscle aches, deep bone pain and “goose bumps”. Synergy Lifestyle Center developed a state-of-art outpatient detoxification program to ease the withdrawals as much as possible.
Benzodiazepines are medications that are being used routinely in medical and psychiatric practice for treatment of anxiety, seizures and alcohol withdrawal and are potentially addictive in patients with history of drug abuse, alcoholism, anxiety and insomnia as well as abstinent alcoholics and children of alcoholics.
Withdrawal Symptoms include tremors (“shakiness”), sweats, anxiety, insomnia, nausea and - in more severe cases – hallucinations and seizures. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be deadly and often requires hospitalization.
Stimulants increase the concentration of various brain chemicals (Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine) causing increased alertness and happiness but also increased blood pressure and paranoia. Meth is considered the most dangerous drug of the group due to its high potency and long lasting effects in the body. The initial physiologic alertness and happiness will soon turn into depression and constant tiredness when the drug is not taken. Eventually the brain becomes damaged irreversibly.
After stopping the prolonged use of stimulants people usually feel sad or depressed and experience any of the following: fatigue, vivid and/or unpleasant dreams, insomnia or hypersomnia (i.e. sleeping too much), increased appetite, slowing of movement or agitation.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the world with approximately 150 million users in any given year. It attaches to “endocannabinoid” receptors that are scattered throughout various areas of the brain and body and thereby mimic a substance that the human body produces. Depending on the area of the receptors the effects vary.
Marijuana withdrawal occurs in heavy smokers (e.g. daily users) and may cause increased anxiety, restlessness, depression and irritability, sleeping problems and decreased appetite. The symptoms begin one day after the last use and can last up to 14 days, depending on the individual’s level of dependence.
Hallucinogens are a group of plant derived and synthetically manufactured substances that all share the ability to produce hallucinations / illusions and changes in thinking and awareness by influencing the activity of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) through receptor interaction.
Although there are no known withdrawal symptoms, any hallucinogen can trigger psychotic reactions in patients with underlying mental disorders and may worsen disorders such as schizophrenia. LSD use may also cause hallucinations, reality distortions or illusions for many years following its last use (aka “flashbacks”) and may cause secondary depression and anxiety disorders.
The Thalamus is a structure in the brain that “filters” signals from all of our senses and body areas. It enables us to focus on “important” sensations and we are not overwhelmed by the millions of signals that our body and senses transmit to the brain every second of the day (such as the noise of a car driving by or the feeling of wind on our skin).
PCP and Ketamine block a receptor on the Thalamus that regulates this “filter” which causes all of the signals from our senses and body to flow into our awareness, unfiltered. This is called “sensory overflow” and may cause panic attacks, aggression and violence. Chronic PCP & Ketamine use may lead to depression & dysphoria, memory- and cognition problems, apathy, irritability and flashbacks.
Steroids are synthetic derivates of the male hormone testosterone. The main reason for the abuse of steroids is to promote muscle growth and physical appearance as well as to gain a competitive advantage in sports (athletes, football players).
There are no immediate intoxication effects of steroids (compared to other drugs) but a vast number of physical and mental complications including liver problems (liver cysts & tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure, acne, cholesterol changes), mental problems (hostility and aggression, paranoia, psychosis, depression) and gender specific problems in males (prostate cancer, reduced sperm production, shrunken testicles, breast enlargement) and females (menstrual irregularities, development of facial hair / beard and other male characteristics).
Spice is a relatively new drug, which consists of several synthetic chemicals that work on the “endocannabinoid” receptors in the brain (like marijuana does). It causes a “high” similar to marijuana and is highly abused by high school students, second to marijuana. There is a common misconception that Spice is legal, however the DEA characterized most of the components of Spice as illegal to possess and use.
Since it is a relatively new drug, there have been no long-term studies about the potential dangers and complications of this drug but users describe symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. In a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks. Like marijuana, regular users may experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping.